At the heart of this unique story is a pair of red wolves – dubbed 2225F and 2323M. The Canis rufus couple renewed and sparked hope for the critically endangered red wolf species when they recently became parents to six pups – the first litter born in the wild since 2018.
Red wolves are on the brink of extinction, with fewer than 25 in the wild and only a few hundred in captivity in facilities across the country. Their survival depends on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Red Wolf Recovery Program and the work of program partners like North Carolina Wildlife Federation (NCWF). The last remaining wild red wolves reside on the Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula, located on the North Carolina coast and covering Dare, Tyrrell, Washington, Hyde and Beaufort counties.
“The six red wolf pups born in mid-April – four females and two males – are the offspring of two pretty cool wolves. The female was born in the wild at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). The male was released there in 2021 after being translocated from St. Vincent NWR in Florida, where he also was born in the wild,” said Katerina Ramos, NCWF’s refuge volunteer and programs coordinator.
Ramos, who works at the Red Wolf Center located on Pocosin Lakes NWR in Columbia, noted the close bond between red wolf pairs, which shows through their parenting. “The parental care and shared responsibilities between male and female wolves – especially this pair – is so heartwarming to see,” she said. “We have evidence that he’s been working diligently to bring food to the den for his mate.”
Another interesting piece of this red wolf story is that the young female’s 12-year-old mother (1849F) is the former breeding female of the Milltail wolf pack on the Alligator River NWR. When USFWS officials brought the male red wolf 2323M from Florida, they captured the matriarch and placed her in an acclimation pen with the newcomer hoping she would show him the lay of the land and accept him into the territory.
“Before the male red wolf 2323M came along, a coyote hanging around in the area had the younger female in his sights, but she would often visit her mom and the new male wolf in the acclimation pen. It worked out wonderfully because as soon as the pen was opened, the male red wolf made a direct path to her and displaced the coyote,” Ramos said.
This article by Kristine Goodyear was first published by The NWF Blog on 10 August 2022. Lead Image: Credit: David Busch.
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